May 21 (UPI) -- The United Nations Human Rights Council has dismissed a formal petition from the families of the North Korean waitresses who fled a Pyongyang-run restaurant in China in 2016, according to a South Korean press report.
Newsis reported Thursday the U.N. body rejected claims of an abduction from the North Korean family members of the 12 waitresses, who have resettled in the South under the condition of anonymity.
According to the U.N. Council, the North Korean appeal was rejected on the grounds the waitresses have been able to resettle in the South as ordinary citizens, without restrictions on their individual freedoms.
The U.N. body also raised the issue of fair representation of the waitresses. According to Newsis, Lawyers for a Democratic Society, a South Korean group that has urged the waitresses to be repatriated, are petitioning on behalf of their North Korean families.
The Rights Council said it would consider the petition if the families or the waitresses are allowed to exercise their right of habeas corpus. Only then would the authority of their legal counsel, the LDS attorneys, would be recognized, the U.N. body had suggested, according to Newsis.
The South Korean lawyers' group has claimed the waitresses were abducted and had requested protection for the waitresses with a South Korean court. The court dismissed the claim in March 2017.
LDS is a group that is also being linked to the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, amid allegations the president of the NGO, Yoon Mi-hyang, misappropriated funds intended for former victims of Japanese wartime brothels.
Yonhap reported Thursday LDS lawyers might have played a mediating role between Heo Kang, the North Korean manager who escaped with the waitresses, and Yoon's husband.
In an interview with Yonhap TV, Heo, who now resides in Australia, said Yoon's husband urged him and others to "return to the North" to save their families.
Analysts have said Heo may have been threatened in some way by North Korea when he made claims of abduction in 2018.